Attn: All Ironman Cairns Racers

We asked each RPG Coach a tip specific to Ironman Cairns and what it means for their prep and race strategy.

Image credit- @koruptvision

Coach Liz: 

The Cairns problem:

The ride is beautiful and undulating much of the first 120km yet ironically the final flat 60km is typically the hardest sections due to a strong head wind hitting hard in nearly every previous year except bar an unusually calm year in 2017. 

If you haven’t kept your output smooth and controlled early you’ll be battling to hold your the goal output you’re your biking plan can fall apart fast. 

Cairns Prep/Race Solution:

Implementing sustained specific intervals at the back end of long rides differing to other races where there might be reasons to work the power average higher early aka Kona. 

Establishing how far above your goal average wattage and power you can afford to go up the hills (everyone will go above to some degree) and not ruin the back end of you key training rides. 

Coach Reedy:

The Cairns Problem:

The swim is hot. Damn Hot! Wetsuit mandatory due to stingers with the water typically 26 degrees.
Dehydration can be well and truly set in before you’ve even started the bike with many athletes wondering why they’re dizzy on the bike, nauseous or unable to take in their nutrition.

Cairns Prep/Race Solution:

For those really racing it’s important to know what your sweat losses will be swimming in 26 degree water in a wetsuit. 

Your sweat rate will vary at different intensities so play around with that over various sessions weighing yourself pre and post specific swim sets on different days to work out if going lower intensity is going to be worth it avoid dehydration before the bike has started. A few minutes slower in the swim could equal a massive amount of time gained back on the bike and run.

If mild to moderate dehydration is unavoidable, then a different strategy has to be implemented on early on in the bike to to try and rehydrate or at a minimum avoid further losses before the run. 

For those that just wanting to finish: 

If you’re out there for more than 75 minutes that’s a long time to be effectively a sauna like state. I’ve always argued that particularly for the slower swimmers the swim should be two loops with a run out of the water to a hydration station halfway through the swim. In the absence of that change,  I would seriously consider having fluid with you tucked in your wetsuit and stopping mid swim to get fluid in. Perhaps a couple of these to it’s not too uncomfortable: 

 Unlike fuelling once you’re really dehydrated in a race there is no coming back and the whole day becomes an epic struggle.

Coach Clint:

The Cairns Problem:

It’s more difficult than cooler Ironman events to absorb your nutrition. 

If you’re training through a cooler winter (Melbs athletes!) and implement a simulation session to check you’re tolerating and absorbing your race nutrition and then think that will translate wonderfully to Cairns, think again! 

The Prep/Race Solution:

The heat, particularly in the swim, means the body will be shunting blood away from the digestive system to the extremities to cool the body as with heat stress that fast becomes its primary concern.

The first part of the solution is to simulate the conditions of Cairns in some specific sessions to test and refine your nutrition and hydration plan. 

Then, solution two.. be flexible on race day with your nutrition plan. Even without the heat, the adrenaline of race day can do funny things to your stomach. Sometimes the most practiced approach simply doesn’t work because the body primes itself for war on itself pre race with many stops to the bathroom or you won’t be digesting your pre race breakfast because the body is already in fight or flight mode. It’s better to stop forcing the fuel in when you can feel it’s not breaking down and being absorbed rather than to continue jamming it down. 

Absorbing some calories is way better than absorbing nothing and vomiting it all back up because you’ve continued forcing it down against your natural instincts.

Go forth. 


Beware of the Dragon.